Heidelcast 208—Taking Calls On Church Discipline For Doctrinal Error, Final Salvation Through Works, Divinization, Justice, Ecstatic Worship, And Providence

This episode might be what some would call a “humdinger” if only because we were able to fit in all six calls and give some answer to each. Daniel called to ask how the church should respond when a lay member adopts a serious doctrinal error (or even heresy)? What happens if it is a ruling elder? We are talking about practice. We take a call from Izmir, Turkey about the role of works in our lives, in final salvation, and in helping the church to see who is and is not a Christian. What is the “judgment of charity” and how does it work? Deborah calls from Chicago to ask about a popular book by a biblical scholar who claims to have found a way to get behind tradition, creeds etc to be able to recover the authentic biblical worldview. Heidelblog contributor Harrison Perkins calls from London to comment on why people might be afraid to think of the new heavens and the new earth in terms of worship. It might have something to do with what they understand worship to be. Finally, we take a call from long-time HB reader Paul, from Central Indiana, about God’s secret providence and the problem of evil. Stay tuned. In the next episode we begin a series on prayer: Our Father in Heaven.



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Show Notes

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  1. So here’s a question that is new to me. What is the Reformed understanding of ‘Theosis’? A friend messaged me asking my opinion of it, and I have found very little on what the historic church has held on that term. I told them I was cautious, as it seems to conflate terms and almost borders on semi-pelagianism, but that I didn’t know enough about it to have a stance yet. Thoughts? Thank you so much for you work and ministry. It has helped disciple me as a supplement to my consistory’s shepherding.

    Blessings from the PNW!
    Josh Jimenez

    • Hi Josh,

      The Reformed theologians traditionally did not speak of θέωσις (theosis) as such. The question is what theosis means. As I indicated in the episode, it seems to me that, in the Greek traditions, the human problem is not considered legal or moral but ontological. Thomas put it this way too. Thus, it would seem that salvation (theosis) is ontological but the Greeks deny that this is what they are saying by theosis. Bp Timothy/Kalistos Ware, says in The Orthodox Church that theosis is the Greek way of saying progressive sanctification. Ware distinguishes between God’s essence and his energies, or his working. Mike Horton has used these categories.

      Insofar as that is true, and the testimony of the Greek theologians seems fairly consistent on this point, their doctrine of really salvation through progressive sanctification. In that way it is not fundamentally different from Rome’s.

      Evangelicals, however, have had a tendency to want more than sanctification. The mystical influences on Modern evangelicals seems to drive them toward a doctrine of divinization or deification. Hodge, in his Systematics, addresses Schwenkfeld (the Anabaptist, which might explain the post-1800 turn of Modern evangelicals toward deification) as an example of a Western writer who seeks identity with God. He also addressed it under his discussion of pantheism.

      The only 16th or 17th-century writer I was able to find through a search of an extensive database of Reformed & Lutheran texts who wrote about theosis was Abraham Calov and that was under Christology.

      Heiser seems to be moving even beyond the Greeks (hence the importance of the Anabaptist connection).

      So, the Reformed certainly teach a doctrine progressive sanctification by grace alone, through faith alone. The Apostle Peter does speak of us being “partakers in the divine nature,” but he is not speaking ontologically, or about being. He is speaking about sanctification, the gradual and gracious conformity by the Spirit, through the Word and sacraments, of the believer into the image of Christ.

      There are other examples of something like an ontological approach to theosis that has influenced evangelicals. Hodge called Edwards a pantheist. Here’s an intro to some of the issues with Edwards:

      Why Caution About Jonathan Edwards Is In Order

      See also:

      On The QIRE There’s No Place to Stop

      Sanctification Is A Work Of God’s Grace: Resources On Sanctification

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